Imperial South Kensington campus in the snow

Request for clarity in response to December 4th Council Chair’s Message

Officer Trustees Team
Monday 7 December 2020 12:52
In response to the correspondence received by students and staff on Friday December 4th, the Union officer team has requested further clarity from the Chair of College Council. The email we sent to him follows.

Dear Council Chair,

We hope you are well.

Naturally, the emails which were sent to all students and staff on Friday, as well as this article in the Daily Mail, are of great interest to those we represent. On behalf of those people, we are requesting clarity.

We believe that the College should shed more light on the allegations mentioned in the email. While respecting individual confidentiality, we believe students deserve to know how serious these allegations might be in practice, especially if they have contributed to a culture which permeates the institution. In particular, we would ask whether it would be possible for a redacted version of the report, which protects the identities of those who gave evidence, could be made available publicly.

We also believe the College ought to share more information about the recommendations made following the investigation. It is difficult for students to take an informed view on this process if they are unaware of all the outcomes. We would welcome further detail about each recommendation, whether all the recommendations which were made were accepted, information about the progress implementing these recommendations, and how they might be reconciled with the College’s zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment.

This is a challenging moment for the College, but it is also an opportunity for it to live up to its stated ethics: honesty, fairness, and transparency. We hope the College takes this opportunity.

Yours sincerely,

Abhijay Sood, Shervin Sabeghi, Ross Unwin, Sam Lee, Michaela Flegrova

Imperial College Union Officer Trustee Team 2020-21


The College responded on December 8th. Our reply was as follows:


Dear Ian and John,

Thank you for taking the time to respond during what must be an extremely busy time for you both.

While we appreciate that there are limits to what you can share, and that it may be challenging to share more, we are understandably disappointed by aspects of this response. This disappointment has been reflected in numerous queries we’ve received from students.

We understand that confidentiality and proper process is important, but we struggle to understand why that must preclude releasing the findings of the report in a redacted form which protects the identities of those (particularly the victims) who gave evidence. This may not be the normal procedure, but these are not normal circumstances; the process up until this point has already been far from normal. At this stage, given the public attention to this matter and the level of interest within Imperial, we believe releasing a redacted form of the report is a necessary condition to begin to restore trust within the organisation.

We appreciate the information you have already shared about the recommendations, but we would seek more detail here. For the sake of openness and transparency, we would ask for a clear list, rather than a set of areas these recommendations cover. We would ask for clarity regarding the points on alignment within/between committees, as we find this unclear. We would ask for more detail about the pace at which recommendations are being implemented, and that staff and students are regularly updated on the progress of the implementation where relevant. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you directly, as you mentioned, at a point you deem appropriate.

We understand that a zero-tolerance policy would necessitate a thorough investigation, but we would hope serious complaints would not be ignored and would be thoroughly investigated regardless of the use of that phrase. While the College may disagree, we believe most students and staff would interpret ‘zero-tolerance’ as something more than this. To us, zero-tolerance implies severe consequences. At the most senior level, it is hard to imagine what this could entail other than removal from the organisation. The College’s reluctance to share more detail makes imagining alternatives even more difficult.

We appreciate your being upfront with us about the dysfunctional culture which was investigated. We are concerned that this dysfunction may now grow, as the perception of a light touch response might prejudice the ability of staff members to properly manage similar disciplinary cases when more junior staff members are accused of similar indiscretions. The signals the College’s response is sending may be deleterious to Imperial in the longer-term.

We may not be able to find agreement on these matters, and ultimately your position affects the outcome more than ours; if you have decided to remain steadfast, a letter of this nature is hardly likely to shift you. However, we hope you give the points we raise some real consideration. One of the most striking things about this affair in the past week has been the lack of surprise from students and staff. There’s clearly outrage and interest, but few are shocked by these revelations. More than anything else, this response is illustrative of the culture of the College: a culture we would very much like to see improve going forward. We believe the steps described here are necessary (though perhaps insufficient) for such improvement.

We hope to hear more from you, and we hope to continue speaking constructively in future.

Kind regards,

Abhijay Sood, Shervin Sabeghi, Ross Unwin, Sam Lee, Michaela Flegrova

Imperial College Union Officer Trustee Team 2020-21